$20 Grocery Bag Challenge (Round 1)

See how Chef Joshna Maharaj turns a $20 bag of groceries, some staple ingredients you’ll have in your kitchen, into three wholesome student-friendly recipes!

foods in a grid

A full stomach gives fuel to the body and mind for learning. Eating well as a student can be pretty easy–with a bit of planning and some creative thinking. Chef Joshna Maharaj loves to help students make delicious, wholesome dishes on a student-friendly budget…while having fun doing it! 

In this round of the $20 Grocery Bag Challenge, Chef Joshna takes her bag of ingredients and slices, dices, whisks, stir frys and bakes her way to three recipes: Pad Gra Prow, Cheese and Pepper Frittata and Cheesy Baked Rice.

“I’m going to show you how to get the most out of your ingredients and your time in the kitchen,” says Chef Joshna, “you’re going to enjoy cooking and and eating your way through this lovely pile of food!”

What's in the grocery bag?

When Chef Joshna went shopping this time, she bought the following six ingredients for approximately $20:

  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1lb cheddar cheese
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 900g jasmine rice
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 bunch fresh basil

The prices will vary depending on the kind of ingredients you get (naturally raised, organically grown etc.)–please buy the best that you can afford. If ground beef isn’t your thing substitute another meat like ground chicken or pork. If you want to go vegetarian then pick plant-based meat or mushrooms instead of meat–this might also let you stretch your $20 further! Additionally, you can use vegan cheese instead of the cheddar or swiss, and soft tofu instead of eggs…which will free up the budget to afford vegan cheese if it’s what you prefer.

What are the recipes?

Chef Joshna has written these three recipes to use up the $20 worth of ingredients in the most delicious, efficient way possible. You will also need a few other things from your pantry (onion, garlic, oils, sauces and seasonings). There are “as many suggestions for substitutions that I could think of,” she says. “If you make all of these recipes there should be approximately 10 portions/servings of food–for yourself for a few days, or to share with others.”

Pad Gra Prow

Pad Gra Prow stir fry with rice in a bowl

This is Chef Joshna’s student-friendly version of a classic Thai dish. Pad Gra Prow which translates to Thai basil beef (“prow”) is an easy, flavourful and satisfying stir fry. She’s giving some substitution options in this Pad Gra Prow recipe to make it more accessible for time  and cash-strapped students. “This dish is simple and delicious,” says Chef Joshna, “and the stir fry is a great cooking technique to learn. Try it out for yourself, and make a version of Pad Gra Prow that you love!”

Cheese and Pepper Frittata

Frittata in a cast iron skillet

This is Chef Joshna’s fuss-free recipe for Cheese and Pepper Frittata, an endlessly versatile Italian-inspired dish that’s a staple for any student. “Once you get the knack of making a frittata, you can put anything you like inside.” she says, “Bits of leftover meat and veggies work beautifully, as do potatoes (but remember to cook them until almost done before adding other stuff in).” In our vegetarian version, plan for two eggs per person and use whatever cheese and herbs you like.

Cheesy Baked Rice

Cheesy rice in a square bowl

This Cheesy Baked Rice recipe isn’t going to win any culinary awards, but Chef Joshna likes it as a use-it-up dish when you’ve got extras of ingredients like bell pepper, cheese and/or rice. You can also add in some onion and garlic if you’ve got it.

There you go! From $20 in groceries to three wholesome, student-friendly recipes. Yum! Do you have any suggestions for what to make with this grocery bag of ingredients?

Let us know using the hashtag #WholesomeEating and mention @JoshnaMaharaj @CommunalLunch on Instagram.

Joshna is a chef, author & activist who cares a lot about people's relationship with food. She works to rebuild food systems in public institutions putting hospitality and sustainability as a top priority.